Depsipeptides Targeting Tumor Cells: Milestones from In Vitro to Clinical Trials

Molecules. 2023 Jan 9;28(2):670. doi: 10.3390/molecules28020670.


Cancer is currently considered one of the most threatening diseases worldwide. Diet could be one of the factors that can be enhanced to comprehensively address a cancer patient's condition. Unfortunately, most molecules capable of targeting cancer cells are found in uncommon food sources. Among them, depsipeptides have emerged as one of the most reliable choices for cancer treatment. These cyclic amino acid oligomers, with one or more subunits replaced by a hydroxylated carboxylic acid resulting in one lactone bond in a core ring, have broadly proven their cancer-targeting efficacy, some even reaching clinical trials and being commercialized as "anticancer" drugs. This review aimed to describe these depsipeptides, their reported amino acid sequences, determined structure, and the specific mechanism by which they target tumor cells including apoptosis, oncosis, and elastase inhibition, among others. Furthermore, we have delved into state-of-the-art in vivo and clinical trials, current methods for purification and synthesis, and the recognized disadvantages of these molecules. The information collated in this review can help researchers decide whether these molecules should be incorporated into functional foods in the near future.

Keywords: anticancer; cancer-targeting; cell; depsipeptide; enrichment; functional food.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Depsipeptides* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry


  • Depsipeptides
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Peptides, Cyclic

Grant support

This work was supported by CONACyT [grant number 627107 for Plinio A. Trinidad-Calderón] and Tecnologico de Monterrey [full-tuition scholarship] to obtain a doctoral degree.